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posted by martyb on Thursday August 31 2017, @03:12AM   Printer-friendly
from the mount-generators-on-a-barge? dept.

Residents near a chemical plant in Crosby, TX — approximately 25 miles (40km) northeast of Houston — have been evacuated due to the possibility of an explosion:

Arkema SA expects chemicals to catch fire or explode at its heavily flooded plant in Crosby, Texas in the coming days because the plant has lost power to its chemical cooling systems, a company official said on Wednesday.

The company evacuated remaining workers on Tuesday, and Harris County ordered the evacuation of residents in a 1.5-mile(2.4-km) radius of the plant that makes organic peroxides used in the production of plastic resins, polystyrene, paints and other products.

Richard Rowe, chief executive officer of Arkema's North America unit, told reporters that chemicals on the site will catch fire and explode if they are not properly cooled.

Arkema expects that to happen within the next six days as temperatures rise. He said the company has no way to prevent that because the plant is swamped by about 6 feet (1.83 m) of water due to flooding from Harvey, which came ashore in Texas last week as a powerful Category 4 hurricane.

"Materials could now explode and cause a subsequent and intense fire. The high water that exists on site, and the lack of power, leave us with no way to prevent it," Rowe said. He said he believes a fire would be "largely sustained on our site but we are trying to be conservative."

From the company's web site:

Our Crosby facility makes organic peroxides, a family of compounds that are used in everything from making pharmaceuticals to construction materials. But organic peroxides may burn if not stored and handled under the right conditions. At Crosby, we prepared for what we recognized could be a worst case scenario. We had redundant contingency plans in place. Right now, we have an unprecedented 6 feet of water at the plant. We have lost primary power and two sources of emergency backup power. As a result, we have lost critical refrigeration of the materials on site that could now explode and cause a subsequent intense fire. The high water and lack of power leave us with no way to prevent it. We have evacuated our personnel for their own safety. The federal, state and local authorities were contacted a few days ago, and we are working very closely with them to manage this matter. They have ordered the surrounding community to be evacuated, too.

Also at ABC and The Washington Post.


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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 31 2017, @03:44AM (11 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 31 2017, @03:44AM (#561948)

    Under the circumstances (and based on the SN story only), this seems like a very smart corporate move. Over the years we've seen many companies try to cover up bad situations like this, and of course we hear about them after they blow up (literally or figuratively).

    Maybe not everyone at every big company is evil??

    Of course it's quite possible that this is the first that the neighbors have heard about the potential bomb in their back yards?

    • (Score: 4, Informative) by edIII on Thursday August 31 2017, @04:17AM (10 children)

      by edIII (791) Subscriber Badge on Thursday August 31 2017, @04:17AM (#561957)

      Realistically, it wasn't a safety issue. Multiple backup generators, and I'm nearly certain, priority for diesel fuel in cases of emergency. Without this Biblical storm going on, the waters were probably never thought to get that high. Additionally, they are stretched so thin right now that from a logistics point of view let it explode if it means saving a ton of lives elsewhere. Evacuate the area and concentrate on others you can save. The pollution may suck and have to be dealt with, but I seriously doubt even the Army Corp of Engineers could save it at this point. I hate corporations too, but nobody ever thought some of these places would flood as bad as they did, and that everywhere would need help at once.

      This isn't normal. I've lived there, and let me tell you, I've never even heard of some places going under water and I've been there in a hurricane that we thought at the time was huge. Houston has had floods before, but we need a new name for this shit.

      All of Port Arthur is under water. Holy Shit.

      • (Score: 2) by Whoever on Thursday August 31 2017, @05:20AM (7 children)

        by Whoever (4524) on Thursday August 31 2017, @05:20AM (#561970) Journal

        This isn't normal.

        Neither was Fukushima. They also had backup generators. They thought that they had planned sufficiently for tsunamis.

        Perhaps the real failure was building this plant somewhere that could be flooded.

        • (Score: 3, Touché) by FatPhil on Thursday August 31 2017, @08:51AM

          by FatPhil (863) <{pc-soylent} {at} {asdf.fi}> on Thursday August 31 2017, @08:51AM (#562022) Homepage
          Were these backup generators also in a basement?
          --
          Life is a precious commodity. A wise investor would get rid of it when it has the highest value.
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 31 2017, @09:23AM (2 children)

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 31 2017, @09:23AM (#562029)

          Perhaps the real failure was building this plant somewhere that could be flooded.

          So.... basically anywhere on Earth?

          • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 31 2017, @11:10AM (1 child)

            by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 31 2017, @11:10AM (#562059)

            No.

            Many places on earth will not be flooded, even if/when polar ice caps melt.

            I live near a former swamp that was built-over into a residential suburb by aggressive developers and lax town planners. This is near the Great Lakes which (primevally) were much larger. Those streets still can be flooded, although they have storm sewers and are generally OK. I'm in an older part of town (with a plain old house) on top of a nearby rock ledge, about 50 feet higher. Even with 4-5 feet of rain (like Houston), I'm going to be dry, and my basement will be dry too.

            I don't know the topography near Houston, but the reports I've seen say that 30% of the city is flooded. That means that 70% is a little higher (locally, there is also the question of where the water can drain). One of those high spots (~10 feet higher) would have been a better place for the chemical plant, but (as others have said), no one expected this much rain when the plant was built.

            • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Thursday August 31 2017, @04:30PM

              by bob_super (1357) on Thursday August 31 2017, @04:30PM (#562170)

              The high spots have often been taken for a while, and building the ugly plants lower and closer to major infrastructure is usually the better and cheaper move.
              High points are usually not as flat, which changes the building costs by a few millions.

              Given the population size, you gotta build plants somewhere outside of the Rockies slopes anyway, then you have to hedge your bets against 500-year disasters. The perfect spot goes the highest value production (of the day), and so on...

        • (Score: 1) by khallow on Thursday August 31 2017, @01:19PM

          by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday August 31 2017, @01:19PM (#562100) Journal

          Perhaps the real failure was building this plant somewhere that could be flooded.

          Locations aren't very flexible unlike disaster planning. What are we supposed to do here? Build all human industry in the mythical places where disasters never happen and NIMBYs don't live? In the real world, every location will have drawbacks.

        • (Score: 4, Funny) by richtopia on Thursday August 31 2017, @04:06PM (1 child)

          by richtopia (3160) Subscriber Badge on Thursday August 31 2017, @04:06PM (#562160) Homepage Journal

          Perhaps the real failure was building this plant somewhere that could be flooded.

          When I read this, I start substituting other potential disasters, like:

          Perhaps the real failure was building this plant somewhere that could see tornadoes.

          Perhaps the real failure was building this plant somewhere that could have mudslides.

          Perhaps the real failure was building this plant somewhere that could see a dormant volcano.

          Perhaps the real failure was building this plant somewhere that could experience earthquakes.

          Perhaps the real failure was building this plant somewhere that could have drought induced forest fires.

          Perhaps the real failure was building this plant somewhere that could be hit with a meteorite.

          Yes, we need to mitigate for disasters in an area. However to build everything completely isolated from disasters is effectively impossible. I suppose we could put all of industry in Yucca Mountain now that we don't plan on putting nuclear waste inside...

      • (Score: 1, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 31 2017, @12:27PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 31 2017, @12:27PM (#562083)

        Houston has had floods before, but we need a new name for this shit.

        It's called Geoengineering. [youtube.com]

        Look at NASA's GOES13 Sat feed and see for yourself, your continued ignorance contributes to these disasters.

      • (Score: 2) by mcgrew on Thursday August 31 2017, @05:10PM

        by mcgrew (701) <publish@mcgrewbooks.com> on Thursday August 31 2017, @05:10PM (#562192) Homepage Journal

        Sadly, you were wrong. At least one truck is already burning.

        --
        Free Martian whores! [mcgrewbooks.com]
  • (Score: 2) by MostCynical on Thursday August 31 2017, @03:52AM (5 children)

    by MostCynical (2589) on Thursday August 31 2017, @03:52AM (#561949)

    less corporate loss (to reputation or finances) to come out and say something.

    The size of the evacuation area is interesting (anyone know the area?) does the evacuation zone conveniently exclude any larger towns?

    As with Fukashima, they had back ups, but the back ups weren't above the flood level.
    Engineers: put it above the 1:1000 flood height
    Managers/MBAs: put it above the 1:100 flood height, and save $X thousands.
    Senior Managers: how much more would we save just putting it in the car park?

    --
    tau = 300. Greek circles must have been weird.
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 31 2017, @03:58AM (4 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 31 2017, @03:58AM (#561951)

      > Engineers: put it above the 1:1000 flood height

      If that's where the engineers quit, it's a shame. All they had to do was put the back up generators on the second floor. It could be above the office block, no one would even know (except the night maintenance crew that tests the gensets every now and again).

      • (Score: 2) by MostCynical on Thursday August 31 2017, @04:22AM

        by MostCynical (2589) on Thursday August 31 2017, @04:22AM (#561958)

        Who's budget would pay for the roof testing/reinforcement and the crane?

        --
        tau = 300. Greek circles must have been weird.
      • (Score: 1) by anubi on Thursday August 31 2017, @06:36AM (2 children)

        by anubi (2828) on Thursday August 31 2017, @06:36AM (#561993) Journal

        Its really hard on the political level to compete with an insurance company. Its often cheaper to insure than to design to address an unlikely peril.

        --
        "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." [KJV: I Thessalonians 5:21]
        • (Score: 4, Informative) by Geezer on Thursday August 31 2017, @11:44AM (1 child)

          by Geezer (511) on Thursday August 31 2017, @11:44AM (#562066)

          " Its often cheaper to insure than to design to address an unlikely peril."

          Exactly this. The automotive industry is famous for safety analyses that compare the cost of safety measures to the cost of an expected number of wrongful death claims. The Pinto gas tank is a well-known example.

          Rightly or wrongly, almost every endeavor from getting out of bed in the morning to space travel involves some sort of risk analysis, with probabilities ranging from near-zero to near-certain. Is that tin of sardines you're about to eat the one in a hundred million that has salmonella contamination?

          That doesn't excuse stupid engineers or greedy stakeholders, especially when mercenary underwriters are willing to roll someone else's dice.

          It's called good judgement, reasonableness, and sometimes blind, dumb luck.

          We have juries and legions of tort lawyers to decide the fine points of difference.

          • (Score: 2) by linkdude64 on Friday September 01 2017, @02:11PM

            by linkdude64 (5482) Subscriber Badge on Friday September 01 2017, @02:11PM (#562506)

            To be fair, a lot less people die as a result of the greed of these insurance companies, because they honestly don't care if you live or die, and neither do the legions of lawyers who the then-dead poor and working class folks wouldn't be able to hire for prosecution.

            As an electrician who has, on occassion, griped about particular requirements of the National Electrical Code, I realize that almost every rule and regulation within it was interred as a result of "Too many people dying this year from that" and that the NEC was formed, largely, due to insurance companies paying out for houses constantly burning down at the onset of electrical distribution. Arguably, they played an equal role to the labor unions.
            Take the change of requirements for GFCI receptacles in garages - used to be you could leave the garage door opener receptacle and a refrigerator or electric washer/dryer receptacle without that protection. Well, too many people died, or too many houses burned down, so now every single outlet has to be protected. Sure, the GFCI companies love that they can make more money off of selling more receptacles, but hey, the end result is safer installations. Same with fuse boxes - they could be bypassed unsafely, and you'd have exposed voltage there all the time. Now, we have circuit breakers due to greed.

  • (Score: 0, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 31 2017, @04:01AM (25 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 31 2017, @04:01AM (#561952)

    Why the hell wasn't that plant shut down before the storm hit? More importantly, why was it even built in the first place? Who in their right mind allows a chemical plant that is fail deadly?

    Arkema should be forced to pay a fine of at least $10 billion if that plant goes up. There's absolutely no excuse for this. If it were up to me there would be criminal charges leveled against a few C level sociopaths.

    • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 31 2017, @04:08AM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 31 2017, @04:08AM (#561954)

      This plant has been there 40+ years, and the storm that hit is two orders of magnitude higher than the previous largest recorded storm to hit the region.

      While there are many places that are commonly hit with major storms, this region of texas is not usually one of them.

    • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 31 2017, @04:14AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 31 2017, @04:14AM (#561956)

      Go back to the cave and die, fool.

    • (Score: 4, Informative) by edIII on Thursday August 31 2017, @04:27AM (15 children)

      by edIII (791) Subscriber Badge on Thursday August 31 2017, @04:27AM (#561959)

      1) You can't shut it down. It's like Megatron at Hoover Dam. If he gets hot, the shit hits the fan. You want them to ship in ice cubess?

      2) It was built to store certain chemicals

      3) It really wasn't fail deadly. Dual backup generators, and I promise you, that they had high priority for the diesel fuel in emergencies. None of that means dick when the whole place is underwater.

      I've lived about 30 miles away from there. Nobody ever thought that place would flood.... plus everywhere else... plus emergency services being tapped and nearly immobile... plus being reliant on the freakin' Cajun Navy to get around. During the last floods and big hurricane I bet you the water never even got the to the level of the generators and their onsite fuel storage was sufficient for days.

      This ain't normal.

      • (Score: 2) by PinkyGigglebrain on Thursday August 31 2017, @04:50AM (3 children)

        by PinkyGigglebrain (4458) on Thursday August 31 2017, @04:50AM (#561965)

        This ain't normal.

        You can say that again. Not just Harvey but there is also an "Extreme heat warning" for the San Fransisco Bay Area. A friend I have in the area says it is the first in his lifetime, and he is pushing 50. I have taken his advice and postponed my trip to visit family in the area until things cool down.

        --
        "Beware those who would deny you Knowledge, For in their hearts they dream themselves your Master."
        • (Score: 2) by captain normal on Thursday August 31 2017, @05:58AM (2 children)

          by captain normal (2205) on Thursday August 31 2017, @05:58AM (#561984)

          Extreme heat?... Predicted 29 C in San Francisco on Friday (that's ~84 F). Up To 40 C inland (that's ~104 F). Warm, Yes but not unusual This Time of year. Yes I live in central California near the coast...no big deal. By Saturday the temps will be dropping back to normal.So why cancel your trip, it will be the best weather you could find in this area. Unless you like to bundle up like living in Alaska in the winter. Remember Mark Twain was quoted to say "the coldest winter I even spent was summer in San Francisco".

          • (Score: 2) by PinkyGigglebrain on Thursday August 31 2017, @07:22AM

            by PinkyGigglebrain (4458) on Thursday August 31 2017, @07:22AM (#562001)

            https://www.google.org/publicalerts/alert?aid=5ea630b4d1d2669f&hl=en&gl=US&source=wweather [google.org]

            That is what my friend was talking about. He didn't say it had never been that hot before in the state, just that it was the first warning he remembers seeing that covered where he lives on the shoreline. Every time I've visited over the last 10 years or so the weather has been really strange, had to wear short sleeve Ts in the middle of winter and my parka in the summer, the reverse of what I remember from growing up there.

            As to why I'm postponing my trip it is simply that my car doesn't have AC, nor does my brother's place, in an area that will easily hit 100+ during this weekend His place hit 97 when I was there first week of this July, not fun. I would rather not get poached in my own sweat again if I can avoid it. Thank you very much.

            PS: I grew up hearing that MT quote, sadly he didn't actually say it. http://www.snopes.com/quotes/twain.asp [snopes.com]

            --
            "Beware those who would deny you Knowledge, For in their hearts they dream themselves your Master."
          • (Score: 2) by Geezer on Thursday August 31 2017, @12:36PM

            by Geezer (511) on Thursday August 31 2017, @12:36PM (#562089)

            True enough. I grew up in Rancho Cordova, where 100+ F in summer is perfectly normal. OTOH, I lived in The City for about eight years and if it ever got above 80 F in the Richmond or Sunset districts the .gov would issue health advisories and local pagans would start sacrificing small animals.

      • (Score: 3, Informative) by Whoever on Thursday August 31 2017, @05:29AM (2 children)

        by Whoever (4524) on Thursday August 31 2017, @05:29AM (#561974) Journal

        Nobody ever thought that place would flood

        Then they are idiots. Storms in the Gulf are reasonably common and this area is very flat.

        • (Score: 2) by LoRdTAW on Thursday August 31 2017, @03:45PM (1 child)

          by LoRdTAW (3755) Subscriber Badge on Thursday August 31 2017, @03:45PM (#562158) Journal

          Congratulations! I am sure you thoroughly researched your place of residence to ensure there is zero possible chances of a natural disaster.

          • (Score: 2) by Whoever on Friday September 01 2017, @02:20AM

            by Whoever (4524) on Friday September 01 2017, @02:20AM (#562388) Journal

            No natural disaster could make my house a danger to people within a mile of it.

      • (Score: 1) by anubi on Thursday August 31 2017, @05:43AM (6 children)

        by anubi (2828) on Thursday August 31 2017, @05:43AM (#561977) Journal

        If I knew this thing was that sensitive to a thermal situation with that kind of consequences for a fail, I guarantee you my backup would be some sort of diesel engine directly turning the refrigeration compressor with a geothermal heat sink. No electricity, as anything short of battery backup is subject to fail, and even that I won't have much of. Everything should be driven from the mechanical shaft work provided by the engine. That being the refrigeration compressor and circulation pumps, ( which might be on a sealed hydraulic loop for energy transfer ).

        I could snorkel the air from an intake way high, like on the roof of a building or support structure. One thing about some of these diesel engines... they run underwater. I don't like mounting heavy things high in the air. They tend to get toppled.

        The entire shebang should run even if completely submerged. Yes, way overkill, but if I have to design knowing the ramifications for failure, overkill it is.

        If I am going to have a backup, after seeing what happened at Fukushima, having some critical system short out is out of the question. Design it so its simple as possible and relies on as few of things as possible. I do not need to automate everything. People are amazingly adept at knowing what to do if they have the facilities existing to do it. I want to make sure they have the access to manually start the thing up even if there isn't enough electrical power around to run a flashlight.

        If they have to fire off the glow plugs from a truck battery, give access for that.

        Truck-mounted air compressors could recharge the starting tanks should that be necessary.

        Imagine if Fukushima had a few diesel-pump setups hooked into the coolant system, knowing how disastrous coolant failure is to a reactor? Electricity and water don't mix very well, but a shaft rotates underwater almost as well as it rotates in the air. I would probably want to have some way of starting the engine with compressed air.

        Well, I was able to buy a van with this kind of engine.... as I intend to take trips to nowhere in the desert. An engine failure could well kill me. Hence, my purchase of that kind of technology. Old mechanical diesel. No computer. Everything gear driven. Gear train submerged in oil. Its not the most efficient thing I could get, but I feel its probably the most reliable thing I could get.

        After seeing Houston's woe, I would like to snorkel mine up high as well. I live next to a river which I feel may well overflow given a major rainfall, or failure of an upstream dam due to earthquake... especially being the homeless have been camping on its banks, and a mild overflow will quickly escalate to a major flood when tents and other belongings get caught up in bridge supports and dam the river.

        But then, I have to make decisions based on what the factions above me will tolerate. Often the powers that be have found an insurance company which will mitigate the peril cheaper than I can minimize the impact of that peril. This kind of extreme overdesign is only for extreme ramifications in the event of fail.

        --
        "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." [KJV: I Thessalonians 5:21]
        • (Score: 4, Informative) by PinkyGigglebrain on Thursday August 31 2017, @07:43AM (4 children)

          by PinkyGigglebrain (4458) on Thursday August 31 2017, @07:43AM (#562006)

          I would suggest you read up on Fukushima. There were THIRTEEN back up diesel generators for the cooling system. Three of them above the high water line and operational after the tsunami. What caused the problem was not with the engine/generators. It was with the power switching setup that got flooded. The power was there but they couldn't get it to the cooling pumps.

          If they had had a system as you described things might have been different, just like if the wall had been a few meters higher. Hind sight is always 20/20. Hopefully we will learn and improve the safety at other plants.

          Interesting to note that had Fukushima been running Thorium salt based reactors there would not have been any problems, even with everything that went wrong.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fukushima_Daiichi_nuclear_disaster#Backup_generators [wikipedia.org]

          --
          "Beware those who would deny you Knowledge, For in their hearts they dream themselves your Master."
          • (Score: 1) by anubi on Thursday August 31 2017, @09:17AM (2 children)

            by anubi (2828) on Thursday August 31 2017, @09:17AM (#562027) Journal

            I guess the point I am trying to make is in the event of extremely critical things, any additional complexity is another point of failure.

            If its something as critical as coolant, I feel a direct-drive diesel powered pump is in order. No switchgear. Manual access to start if the electrical means fail. Something like compressed air and means to refill the starter tank - even if divers have to do it with a scuba tank. Have fittings compatible and procedures in place. Test it occasionally to make damned sure it works. And, of course, big wheels on the valving just in case the motors can't actuate them.

            Its been my experience that when things go wrong, things go horribly wrong. Even though I am an electronic engineer by training, I flat do not trust electronic circuits to maintain integrity during extreme conditions. One conduit rupture and I am apt to lose the whole circuit served by that conduit. Or why do people always seem to run conduit through an area prone to fire, shifting infrastructure, and falling beams? I don't even trust the pipes not to spring a leak. The more stuff I can cut out of the loop of emergency systems, the better.

            I used to work for an oil company, and studied quite a few whopper fails. Big-time fails. We had lots of talks using our 20/20 hindsights from what we saw.

            At this point I am not after optimization. Its all about getting the system shut down safely. And having as little in common as possible. At the time this thing gets called into service, I am apt to have no idea what the problem is... I just want everything to stop NOW, and I'll pick up the pieces later. I know I have major unknown system damage, but having massive energy releases and chemical spills is even worse. If I can just keep the stuff in the tanks, I'll be a happy man. I can always build another refinery, if it comes to that, but having a massive loss of life or lingering medical problems over an area for generations to come is something I cannot make go away.

            I like to see things like my brother's trawler. All hell can break loose, but that mechanical Fairbanks-Morse diesel is going to run till its out of fuel, or water gets into the air intake or fuel - both of which are minimizable risks. Even if the bilge is flooded, that engine will keep going and keep the trawler's propeller active. It *will* get you home if you can keep the thing afloat.

            --
            "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." [KJV: I Thessalonians 5:21]
            • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 31 2017, @02:52PM

              by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 31 2017, @02:52PM (#562136)

              Organic peroxides are very touchy chemicals in any circumstances. Standard practice is to keep them diluted in an organic solvent. They are a regular cause of lab explosions when some noob lets all the ether evaporate and the peroxide residue gets too concentrated.
              By the time your extreme precautions come into play, they will probably already have gone bang. Better to design your process to have minimal amounts of peroxides added as needed and accept the occaisional small boom.

            • (Score: 3, Insightful) by bob_super on Thursday August 31 2017, @04:58PM

              by bob_super (1357) on Thursday August 31 2017, @04:58PM (#562186)

              "What are the odds that this will break before I retire in 5 years? Under 20%, save on the building cost and buy insurance. I've got stock to sell."

          • (Score: 5, Interesting) by TheLink on Thursday August 31 2017, @04:42PM

            by TheLink (332) on Thursday August 31 2017, @04:42PM (#562176) Journal

            Hind sight is always 20/20.

            But hindsight was not necessary. There was another nuclear plant closer to epicentre, where a stubborn guy managed to convince people to build it robust enough to handle such a tsunami:
            http://www.oregonlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2012/08/how_tenacity_a_wall_saved_a_ja.html [oregonlive.com]

            Hirai said the plant should be built almost 50 feet above sea level. He called for a unique cooling system that would provide water even if a receding tsunami temporarily left the plant high and dry. And Hirai said the plant should be protected by a seawall 49 feet high, not 10 feet as originally designed.

            Colleagues told Tohoku Electric's president that 39 feet would be sufficient. But Hirai, trained by the formidable Yasuzaemon Matsunaga, known as Japan's king of electric power, disagreed.

            "Matsunaga-san hated bureaucrats," Oshima said. "He said they are like human trash. In your country, too, there are probably bureaucrats or officials who never take final responsibility.

            Thing is, it cost a president's job and higher electricity rates to do so:

            Finally, Oshima said, Tohoku's president agreed to spend more for the higher wall -- before resigning to take responsibility for an electricity rate increase. The wall ended up at 46 feet, according to the team's recent inspection.

            The plant shut down so safely that it served as an evacuation center in Onagawa, where 827 died. The fishing town, where I spent a few days reporting after the tsunami, escaped a far worse fate, thanks to Hirai.

        • (Score: 2) by linkdude64 on Friday September 01 2017, @02:13PM

          by linkdude64 (5482) Subscriber Badge on Friday September 01 2017, @02:13PM (#562507)

          "If I am going to have a backup, after seeing what happened at Fukushima, having some critical system short out is out of the question. "

          "If I was going to design something with hindsight on my side, this is how I'd do it...."

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 01 2017, @02:15AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 01 2017, @02:15AM (#562386)

        Actually, it's fairly trivial to make organic peroxides not explode: dilute them with water or other solvent they are soluble in. Most The problem is that makes them useless for synthesis. I bet the company has insurance to cover fire, but not deliberate destruction of their product, for safe guarding the environment and neighborhood. Several first responders did inhale noxious fumes, described as an irritant. If you read the safety docs for the plant, the evac is based an a plume model that assumes the toxicity will be diluted down after approx a mile and a quarter.

    • (Score: 2) by sjames on Thursday August 31 2017, @08:05AM (4 children)

      by sjames (2882) on Thursday August 31 2017, @08:05AM (#562009) Journal

      What good would shutting down have done? They would still have the dangerous chemicals on site. The problem is that the chemicals are actually needed yet are intrinsically unfriendly when not kept cool.

      I am all for holding corporations thoroughly accountable for their actions, but it's not like they built a nuke plant on the coast line. The current crisis is a > 500 year flood. Let's see how it plays out before we decide if anyone needs to be charged with something.

      Naturally, if there are any damages to other people's property, they should make sure to fully compensate the loss.

      • (Score: 3, Insightful) by choose another one on Thursday August 31 2017, @10:10AM (1 child)

        by choose another one (515) on Thursday August 31 2017, @10:10AM (#562047)

        > Naturally, if there are any damages to other people's property, they should make sure to fully compensate the loss.

        Happily (for them) that won't be necessary as everything nearby is already apparently under 6ft+ of water and any damage from fire/explosion will be difficult to prove to be separate from the flood. The flooding should also reduce the size of the fire and dilute the chemicals to untraceable levels too.

        There's no really good time to announce "our plant's about to blow and trash the neighbourhood", but the time when the neighbourhood is already totally trashed is about as good as you get.

        • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Thursday August 31 2017, @05:09PM

          by bob_super (1357) on Thursday August 31 2017, @05:09PM (#562191)

          Actually, a flooded neighborhood can be dried and (slowly) repaired, especially when people don't build houses out of wood.
          Add an explosion's shockwave to that deep water, and nothing's left standing. The air blast will only blow the windows and damage roof, but the water shockwave will rip everything off their foundations and leave you with wet matchsticks.

      • (Score: 5, Interesting) by VLM on Thursday August 31 2017, @02:29PM (1 child)

        by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Thursday August 31 2017, @02:29PM (#562127)

        The problem is that the chemicals are actually needed yet are intrinsically unfriendly when not kept cool.

        Which? I know of chemicals that explode when warmed but not in context directly of peroxide mfgr. Indirectly in a research lab or quant lab, maybe, maybe.

        Note that chemical plants are run very paranoid. A fellow chem student who actually completed his chem degree shut down a major expressway a couple years back when a reaction went weird. Obviously there is not a giant hole in the expressway or the metro area, but they exclude people up to the theoretical blast radius to minimize lawsuits... When I was in the army at the ammo depot we had spacings for ammo bunkers of like one KM to the nearest civilian not because 100% of civilians die at 999 meters but because theoretically that one time someone saw a piece of shell fragment land 750 meters away once, so round up to one km and call it good. Likewise for about a mile everyone was evac'd for my buddies little incident because theoretically if every barrel perfectly detonated or burned behind one manhole cover, that manhole cover at a perfect 45 degree launch angle could land a mile away, although in reality he was probably the only human being at risk. Turn on the sprinklers activate the emergency plan get everyone the F out. My buddy didn't get fired BTW, supply contamination catalysed some side reaction. Sometimes stuff just happens.

        My gut level guess is in the quant analysis lab or a research lab they have a couple ether containers in the ether fridge and they're worried a couple days of room temp could result in ether peroxides forming (which is why you keep ether cool to begin with...) and blowing an ether fridge to bits was designed not to ignite the peroxide tanks HOWEVER some engineer is paranoid the water will focus the shockwave of the ether fridge going up into cracking a production tank resulting in a rather impressive release and fire. Or they're relying on ether floating on water, normally if the ether fridge blew up or otherwise leaked burning liquid ether, it would incinerate the lab (whoopsies) but they have a nice trench and berm around the production facilities to protect them, unless of course ya got 6 feet of water for the burning ether to float over the trench and berm. The burning ether is not going to incinerate all of Houston BTW because ether is kinda volatile, much like dumping gasoline on the driveway, it'll evaporate at normal temperatures in a couple minutes-ish. But it'll be an impressive fire up close for a short amount of time.

        A third theory I have is 6 feet of water will randomly mix stuff and randomly mixing stuff at a peroxide factory is probably not recreationally safe, so they're worried a theoretical and unlikely very small fire will turn into a very large fire. A giant flood is like the 10 kilomonkeys at typewriters, there's plenty of opportunity for bottle A to smash into bottle Z which could never happen under controlled circumstances but will happen in a flood and bulk peroxides will burn. Not to mention gas leaking out of flooded cars in the parking lot having the misfortune to ignite right next to a flammable bulk storage tank, so a pint of gas leaking out of someone AMC Gremlin in the parking lot floats over to and ignites next to a 50000 liter tank of solvent and after a small bbq starter sized fire you get a somewhat bigger "boom".

        Ironically the CYA is strong in the chemical industry so "protect the public at all costs" is causing some panic when simultaneously as per the company press release "largely sustained on our site but we are trying to be conservative." Not every can of ether exploded instantly in the "bad old days" before lab refrigeration, so if my theory is correct they have a huge cleanup problem in their future but there is almost certainly not going to be an explosion. Of course 1 in 9999 means its not likely to happen but it sure could, so CYA requires evac.

        Of course as a disclaimer I am very sleepy right now and there's probably a "duh" I'm forgetting. Peroxide chemistry is moderately interesting and I'm too sleepy to pull it up, but I seem to recall the worst of it is the low molecular weight stuff like ether turning into explosive peroxides and the higher molecular weight stuff is generally more tame, sorta. Using ether in the lab always freaked me out, like working with detonators in explosives, the odds of something happening are low but technology still hasn't found a way to make it perfectly zero. I suspect they don't let undergrads play with ether anymore. We were all told not to sniff it so logically we all sniffed it and I don't remember what it smelled like. Probably smelled like brain damage making us forget the details of peroxide chemistry a quarter century later. I know there's chemists here on SN and I'm curious what a peroxide plant would have that's unstable at room temp...

        • (Score: 2) by sjames on Saturday September 02 2017, @02:57AM

          by sjames (2882) on Saturday September 02 2017, @02:57AM (#562823) Journal

          Organic peroxides themselves will decompose exothermically. If they are in concentrated form, the reaction will run away since the heat can't dissipate fast enough.

          From the hindsight is 20/20 department, it looks like the fireworks have started [arkema-americas.com] now. Good info in that link.

    • (Score: 2) by Nobuddy on Thursday August 31 2017, @11:24PM

      by Nobuddy (1626) on Thursday August 31 2017, @11:24PM (#562338)

      Welcome to the benefits of deregulation. Who is gonna put their emergency generators on a platform if its cheaper to leave them in the basement? Sure as hell not these guys.

  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 31 2017, @04:50AM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 31 2017, @04:50AM (#561963)

    BBC has some clever overlay maps showing flooded areas -- move the vertical bar back and forth to compare before and after,
          http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-41094872 [bbc.com]

    Other GIS maps as well.

    • (Score: 2, Touché) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 31 2017, @07:26AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 31 2017, @07:26AM (#562002)

      Isn't it a bit early for "after" maps?

  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by takyon on Thursday August 31 2017, @05:24AM (1 child)

    by takyon (881) Subscriber Badge <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Thursday August 31 2017, @05:24AM (#561971) Journal

    Since they are kind of insistent that this thing will explode at some point, I wonder if someone will set up a telescopic camera with very high framerate in an attempt to capture the event in slow motion. Maybe have it continuously recording to a big drive, and then send a command to stop deleting old footage after the event happens.

    --
    [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
    • (Score: 2, Interesting) by anubi on Thursday August 31 2017, @05:51AM

      by anubi (2828) on Thursday August 31 2017, @05:51AM (#561979) Journal

      If that's not being done, it oughta be.

      If what they say about the reactants becoming unstable at loss of refrigeration, its kinda like waiting for that antarctic ice shelf to calve. The thermodynamics of the melt make the calving inevitable.

      Kinda reminds me of watching the reactors on TV while the Fukushima reactors inevitably blew on coolant loss and hydrogen buildup. At this point, little can be done now. Might as well watch the show.

      A few things like this will say more to decision-makers than all the advisories of plant engineers put together.

      --
      "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." [KJV: I Thessalonians 5:21]
  • (Score: 1, Troll) by jmorris on Thursday August 31 2017, @06:17AM (8 children)

    by jmorris (4844) <{jmorris} {at} {beau.org}> on Thursday August 31 2017, @06:17AM (#561988)

    They say they expect it to blow in six days. No way the water stays up that long and the second it goes down they will rush in some cooling because they have several days to brainstorm a solution and engineers live for that sort of thing. Hard to blame the company on this one, they had plenty of backup systems and this hurricane popped up too fast to make shipping the stuff out in time. And it isn't like the thing will render the whole surrounding area a no man's land for generations like a nuke plant so the precautions vs risk seem good and they aren't trying to cover stuff (we hope) up.

    If the whole world around them wasn't a soggy mess it would have been a lot easier to focus on and fix this problem. Which probably wasn't properly accounted for in their emergency procedures. You always plan for all sorts of things to go wrong inside the facility, these days they probably even wargame and drill for terrorists, but you rarely drill for the entire region going to heck.

    • (Score: -1, Troll) by aristarchus on Thursday August 31 2017, @08:19AM (5 children)

      by aristarchus (2645) on Thursday August 31 2017, @08:19AM (#562012) Journal

      jmorris on explosives! Ya gotta just take those odds, because, well, they are just so odd! What are the chances of jmorris being right, when Death is on the Line?

      (One of the three major blunders: Never get involved in a land war in Afghanistan, NEVER go up against a Sicilian, when Deaths is on the Line, and only slightly less well known, never bet with jmorris, ever, at all, you will die.) Did I just insinuate that jmorris is Vizzini? [youtube.com] Get used to disappointment.

      --
      #Free{nick}_NOW!!!
      • (Score: 3, Informative) by choose another one on Thursday August 31 2017, @09:28AM (3 children)

        by choose another one (515) on Thursday August 31 2017, @09:28AM (#562030)

        Well, looks like he's wrong - bbc reporting in the last ten mins, explosions and smoke from the site.

        • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 31 2017, @10:09AM (1 child)

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 31 2017, @10:09AM (#562046)
          • (Score: 2) by VLM on Thursday August 31 2017, @02:35PM

            by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Thursday August 31 2017, @02:35PM (#562130)

            Looking at the video is interesting, the plant seems built on a slope so the one little fire they had is now on dry (well, not submerged) ground. The reports of "plant under six feet of water" was probably conservative WRT the security fence, but not relevant soon.

        • (Score: 1, Troll) by jmorris on Thursday August 31 2017, @04:56PM

          by jmorris (4844) <{jmorris} {at} {beau.org}> on Thursday August 31 2017, @04:56PM (#562184)

          Looks like the six days prediction didn't hold up. So boom today. The news account in the NationalLaughingStock.com was choice though, a perfect storm of ignorance by the journalists and FEMA. We are doomed.

      • (Score: 2) by aristarchus on Saturday September 02 2017, @10:01AM

        by aristarchus (2645) on Saturday September 02 2017, @10:01AM (#562892) Journal

        Modded down, but correct in the event? What is wrong with some of you Soylentils? Do you want to be on the losing side of truth, justice, and history? Are you suicidal Neo-Nazi death eaters? So here you go. Mod this comment down as well. I will make it easy for you and TMB. NO COMMENT! There, I said it, no comment. Nothing to say. Dearth of verbiage. Absence of locution. Non-being of professing. Nothing to say. Ut nihil aliud dicam, qui nihil dicere, quod essentia est verum.

        --
        #Free{nick}_NOW!!!
    • (Score: 5, Informative) by tonyPick on Thursday August 31 2017, @09:55AM

      by tonyPick (1237) on Thursday August 31 2017, @09:55AM (#562040) Homepage Journal

      My money is on no boom

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-41104451 [bbc.co.uk]

      Explosions have been heard coming from a chemical plant near the flooded US city of Houston.
      [...]
      In a statement, the company said: "At approximately 2am CDT [07:00 GMT], we were notified by the Harris County Emergency Operations Center of two explosions and black smoke coming from the Arkema Inc plant in Crosby, Texas.

      At this point your "No Boom" prediction accuracy is looking about as good as your earlier "Climate change as a marxist scam" bet.

    • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Thursday August 31 2017, @05:15PM

      by bob_super (1357) on Thursday August 31 2017, @05:15PM (#562196)

      > No way the water stays up that long and the second it goes down they will rush in some cooling

      (Ignoring the fact it already started blowing...)
      It's been 5 days, you can access the site, you have the generator for the cooling. Do you bet your life on the 6-days guesstimate?

  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 31 2017, @07:26AM (6 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 31 2017, @07:26AM (#562003)

    Is it yet feeling real enough?

    • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 31 2017, @12:41PM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 31 2017, @12:41PM (#562090)

      Climate Change is bogus because it fails to account for the billions of tons of water vapor being pumped into the skies. NASA claims water vapor is the #1 greenhouse gas, and a global network of power plants release enormous amounts of steam -- water and heat energy into the weather system, yet ZERO "climate change" studies mention this.

      That's how you know it's bogus. This storm was man made, the climate is not. [youtube.com]

      • (Score: 4, Touché) by DeathMonkey on Thursday August 31 2017, @05:48PM

        by DeathMonkey (1380) on Thursday August 31 2017, @05:48PM (#562222) Journal

        That's impressive!

        You just managed to directly contradict every part of your own statement.

        Climate Change is bogus because man's emissions are causing climate change?

    • (Score: 2) by cmdrklarg on Thursday August 31 2017, @07:05PM

      by cmdrklarg (5048) on Thursday August 31 2017, @07:05PM (#562255)

      They can't hear you with their head in the sand (or up their ass, depending on how big of an asshole they are). Fuck the future; there's money to be made, and they'll be dead long before the consequences are suffered.

      --
      THE SOFTWARE, IT NO WORKY!
    • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 31 2017, @10:08PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 31 2017, @10:08PM (#562317)

      The plural of anecdote is not data. Besides, climate change is supposed to reduce temperature gradients vs latitude. Those gradients drive hurricanes.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 31 2017, @11:10PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 31 2017, @11:10PM (#562335)

      Nope. Hurricanes have been happening since before mankind was bright enough to keep a history.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 01 2017, @02:46AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 01 2017, @02:46AM (#562392)

      The deniers are against business and want to see the economy collapse. They hope nothing will be done to reduce our effects upon the climate. They are getting their wish on a massive scale as can be seen by the huge economic losses being suffered on the Texas coast.

  • (Score: 1, Offtopic) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 31 2017, @01:23PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 31 2017, @01:23PM (#562106)

    Bring in a generator on a barge and cool the plant.

    Consider digging a new ship channel and moving Houston inland.

  • (Score: 2, Informative) by realDonaldTrump on Friday September 01 2017, @02:28AM

    by realDonaldTrump (6614) Subscriber Badge on Friday September 01 2017, @02:28AM (#562391) Homepage Journal

    This vicious attack happened at the same time as the savage attack on #BirlingGap beach. #MSM says nothing or calls it a coincidence. It's no coincidence. It's radical Islamic terrorism. Striking our blondes, our peroxide blondes, and the sunbathers in England. Folks, these attacks strike at the heart of fashion itself. Attacking our good looks. They hate us because we look FABULOUS! I call President Obama and Crooked Hillary "the founder" of ISIS. I said, the founders of ISIS. Obviously I’m being sarcastic. Then, then -- but not that sarcastic, to be honest with you. Advising all Americans, don't bleach your hair and don't sunbathe! Do the spray tan. The bronzer. And let your roots grow in dark. Until our country's representatives can figure out what the hell is going on. #USA 🇺🇸

    --
    #StopTheBias [twitter.com]
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